I saw the small, square white marker on over my left shoulder. In front of me an adorable looking girl, maybe ten years old, was offering me water. The aid station was alive with folks in bright green t-shirts and hawaiian themed costumes. Somewhere festive music is playing. I see in my periphery large tables with small uniform Gatorade cups. I squint into the sunlight to see the marker reads "4km". In this moment, I suffer from a complete and total mental collapse. I suddenly have the urge to scream, cry, vomit, kick the sign, walk, and go home. All at once.
But first: let's rewind a few hours.
A short five hour drive into the mountains and I found myself in Kimberley, a place I can remember skiing at many moons ago with my family. I was hoping it would have the charm of Canmore (it didn't) but what it lacked in size, charm and pizzaz the place we stayed made up for in trendy comfort and chic, plush decor. Large, spacious and incredibly stunning, my king sized bed featured a large window to the left that looked out on the glorious mountains. Three days ended up being a lovely weekend retreat that included my first triathlon of the 2011 season, and a fabulous - although jam-packed- few days in Calgary.
The day before the race I spent hanging around with Hillary and Grant. I managed to put out one last workout, and then we went down to Wasa Lake. I'd have to say the few hours we spent that afternoon at Wasa very well could have been my actual weekend highlight. We got Hillary into the water and her wetsuit, practised entering, exiting, and sighting in the water. I also suggested Hillary practise peeing in her wetsuit. Although she wrinkled her nose in disgust like I couldn't possibly do that, I guarantee a couple open water swims and long lines in portopotties will change her mind (I swear it Hillary, I swear...) Hillary and I posed for photos to send to our parents and laughed plenty and generally enjoyed the footloose and fancy free nature of no pressure afternoon goofing off at the lake. We scouted out the race site, went to grab our packages and had a serious chill session before the race. I heavily resisted the urge to drug myself in order to sleep pre-race night.
Then, the race. I sail through the warm up, beginning, swim, cycle when here I am, feeling fairly fierce, stepping out onto the run course, mentally congratulating myself for coming around the time I had planned. When all of a sudden I find myself at 4km.
I must have really stared down at the cute girl holding water, because she took an unexpected step back from me as I actually ran through the aid station. My razor sharp focus faded to a blurry one, like I had simultaneously lost both contact lenses. A wave washes over me, a wave of nausea. My stomach makes a large, angry knot. Suddenly, my race is over.
I watch helplessly as women breeze by me like I am standing still. I go from hitting my 4:30minute/ km goal to 5:10, 5:30 a km, 5:50 a km, 6:10 a km, my speed dropping with each footstep, my morale sinking with each stride. I am struggling, and my race goes from excellent to surviving. You're fine, I coach myself, while hitting the 5km, 6km, 7km markers. More women zoom by, unaffected by the heat, the air, their nutrition, whatever had caused me to have a complete melt down I was experiencing. My brain is playing the worst, most angry, tricks on me. You suck, it's saying. I try to silence it. You should quit. I'm trying to ignore the dark spaces I find myself in. You're done. You were cut out for team sports. Walk. You are useless. You are standing still. You suck-ity-suck-suck.
I continue my awkward waddle/run. By the time I hit 8km I was seeing double. I tried to think of all the times I have run 2km. I couldn't muster up a smile, a thank you, anything that would involve the pleasure spheres of my brain to fire. Grant later would mention to me that when the small Talisman Club cheering squad saw me at that point, I looked white as a sheet and was wearing a grimace, or as Grant called it, "my pain face". The next km was the single longest of my life. I searched, and searched, and searched for the 9km marker. I hated, hated, hated my life. In front of me, spectators are lining the finish chute, cheering. Two women race past me in a sprint for the finish. I can barely make my legs move one step in front of the other. I feel no satisfaction. I am empty.
A boy walks up to me two steps after the finish line and takes my timing chip. I take two horizontal steps and end up on my hands and knees. (Please note, any sort of stumble in the finish line area lands you in the med tent). After twenty minutes or so of being attended to, fed both water and oxygen, and being force fed some fruit, I was allowed to go back into transition. I listened to other triathletes commiserate and story-tell, while I fought down the impending tears of frustration. What happened to me? I couldn't help but wonder, as the afternoon burned on. We stayed to watch friends receive their medals and ribbons. To watch Grant get his prize money and plaque for his big win. We headed home and I lay down, quiet and alone for the first time all day.
But the sun came up the next day and I am left with at least small bits of satisfaction, I see this as "Cup Half Full" (try to use my fathers endless wisdom with this sort of thing). I was terribly disappointed because I came up short of what I know I can accomplish; like writing a paper you think is an A+ and getting a B- on it.
Many congratulations go out to Grant for the big win, Hillary for her first triathlon completed, Ari, Gerald and Linda, Allan, Alina,Tyler Mitton, Marc, Cindy, and anyone else I may have missed. It was awesome seeing so many familiar faces on the course and pre/post race.
But I do know when I need motivation for the days and weeks ahead, I will think back to that exact moment when the wheels came off the train, at the 4km marker. If that isn't motivation to put the shoes on and get out there for a run, I don't know what is.
The view of Kimberley from our pimped-out crib.
Wetsuit girls, prior to a play in the lake.
This is a posed photo.
But we did actually swim, too.
Grant = best photographer ever.
"My First Tri" (like my first day of school but way cooler)
Hillary's gross knee after her fall in transition. You can't tell in this photo, but she actually had swelling the size of a second knee.
Rookie mistake: not enough body glide on the neck gave me an awful wetsuit chafe. ouch.
Really kind of Natalie Siu Mitton to pass along these two photos. I think this was the happiest I was all day: pre race.
Run faster Holly!
In the med tent at the end. The guys who helped out were excellent.
I live in Calgary where I own a small business, instruct fitness classes and call myself an endurance athlete. I am the proud owner of four bikes, an expensive wine education, and a strange fascination with the colour orange. I have a long-time love of football, baking, and coffee. I put my minor in creative writing to use occasionally both here and in other publications. I live with my tall, handsome and often-hungry professional triathlete husband.